BuzzFeed News continued its focus on social media and technology companies, such as Facebook, in its coverage. But the news website managed to ignore important context in its summary about Facebook’s announcement of designating government-funded news outlets as “state-controlled,” especially when it came to the Qatari government-backed Al Jazeera Network.
As background, Facebook, in an effort to create transparency on its platform over media sources, announced it will label content from government-funded news organizations as “state-controlled.” The announcement was made two months ago in October in a blog post. The potentially-affected news organizations range from Al Jazeera, BBC, Voice of America, to RT. These organizations were unsure what the labeling process would entail, especially when there are nuances to government-funded news organizations. Also, Facebook did not clearly outline their labeling criteria, placing these news organizations in a gray area.
BuzzFeed News appeared to have taken the side of Al Jazeera, which is a Qatari government-funded news network in the Middle East. BuzzFeed News’s article, headlined, “Facebook Will Call Some Media ‘State Controlled.’ Al Jazeera Said That’s “Dangerous,” quoted Al Jazeera officials at length.
Although BuzzFeed News acknowledged that Al Jazeera received funding from the Qatari government, it repeated the network’s line that “it has complete editorial independence and is operated through a foundation in the Gulf state.” Yet BuzzFeed News ignored past controversies involving Al Jazeera, which included the following:
- Its Facebook account published an anti-Semitic video which denied the Holocaust and claimed Zionists exaggerated its impact this past May,
- A controversial interview of an Al Qaeda leader in Syria in 2015, alongside video footage of his fighters being trained in combat,
- The failed launch of Al Jazeera America in 2013, which channel Americans perceived as a propaganda news network for the Qatari government,
- A WikiLeaks leaked cable that claimed the network changed coverage to suit Qatari government’s foreign policy in 2010.
Contrary to BuzzFeed News’s article, Al Jazeera is not free from government influence based on past events and controversies. Therefore, Facebook could have credible facts to rely on if it went ahead and labeled Al Jazeera a “state-controlled” news network. BuzzFeed News’s article lacked important context and demonstrated the news website’s inability to provide accurate information and facts to its audience and viewers.